UK Government , Government Lawyer, London
Career Change Story
I am now the International Director of overseas development charity, Lively Minds.
I volunteered for 2-months in Northern Ghana back in 2007 and on my trip saw that children living in poverty were not getting the basic educational opportunities that they need - and we take for granted here in the UK - to give them a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. I had an idea which I thought could make a difference. I provided the village where I was living with cheap and locally made children's games and trained 30 women from the community to teach these games to the children. The result was electrifying. Young children loved learning through play - quickly developing skills such as counting, matching, colour & size recognition. Importantly the Play Scheme also had an enormous impact on the women. None had been to school & most were shy, unconfident and isolated. But the training and teaching transformed them - improving their confidence, teamwork and wellbeing.
After returning to the UK I couldn't get the idea out of my head and wanted to do more. I gave up my job as a lawyer and returned to Ghana, and then Uganda, to trial the idea in new communities.
In Ghana I met David Abukari, a community development worker. He loved the idea and took me to communities to help set up the Play Schemes. In Uganda I met Sarah Kanyonga and Joshua Buluke - both of whom had set up community projects in their villages and helped me implement the project there too.
In both countries, neighbouring communities saw the impact of the Play Schemes and asked me to set up projects in their villages too. It was clear the project was hugely scalable. David, Sarah & Joshua asked to be trained so that they could continue the work once I returned to the UK and take the project to other communities - Lively Minds was born!
Career Change Reflections
Working on overseas development is hugely rewarding. The best thing about it is seeing the difference my work makes in practice. It's very exciting working for a small organisation, as you can influence the direction of the organisation as well individual projects. It means that I am in control of my workload, which is a nice change from the law. I find that many of the skills from my legal work have come in handy. In particular communication skills, problem-solving and risk management.